Southern athletic director Roman Banks wants to move toward getting ready for fall in the coronavirus era. That includes making plans to bring more than 150 athletes back to campus after July 4.
Any master plan for the Jaguars also would include a definitive site for the Bayou Classic set for Nov. 28. Questions about the Bayou Classic site continued Wednesday when the office of New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said the city is still open to hosting the event, if conditions are right.
“Conversations with tourism and businesses leaders on a variety of topics have been ongoing since our coronavirus response began, including but not limited to the Bayou Classic,” a City Hall spokesperson said Wednesday.
“We are supportive of any efforts by the Saints and the Bayou Classic organizers to create an event that is in accordance with the guidelines of each phase of the reopening to ensure a safe event that will not prevent further spread.
“It should be noted that it’s mid-June and the game is in late November. We’re still working our way through the early days of Phase 2, and hope to be farther along in the coming months.”
Banks caused a stir during a Southern University System meeting Friday by saying Southern's annual showdown against Grambling likely would not be held in at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in either 2020 and perhaps even 2021.
Banks reiterated this week that no final decision has been made about where this year’s 47th Bayou Classic will be played. But he said he is vetting three other possible locations — LSU’s Tiger Stadium, Independence Stadium in Shreveport and the Jaguars' A.W. Mumford Stadium.
The only time the Bayou Classic was not played at the Superdome was 2005 when it was played in Houston following Hurricane Katrina. The fact that LSU plays at Texas A&M on Nov. 28 makes Tiger Stadium an intriguing possibility.
Banks has said the schools need to be able to socially-distance fans for the Bayou Classic and believes it could be done at any of the sites. Independence Stadium has a 65,000-seat capacity.
The Bayou Classic is not the only Southern game in limbo. Banks said he hopes to meet with promoters for the Jaguars’ Sept. 5 game with Tennessee State scheduled to be played at Detroit’s Ford Field to determine its status.
Banks said he also expects next week’s meeting for SWAC officials to be a crucial part of the decision-making process.
“We need to start advertising what our season is going to look like as soon as we can,” Banks said. “My hope is that by the time we meet next week there may be a better idea about whether the season will start on time and other things.”
Bringing players back
Banks said athletes participating in football, volleyball, soccer and cross country will be allowed to come back to campus after July 4 for voluntary workouts that will feature smaller groups than Louisiana’s Phase 2 or Phase 3 reopening recommendations.
No locker rooms will be open. Banks said athletes will have to provide their own practice clothing. He said the school will provide water and other hydration products.
“We’re not going to over-populate ourselves in any area. We need to make sure we do this systematically,” Banks said.
“The fall sports that we are behind on we will try to get started first. Right now that is probably enough and we will have to have precise plan.
“Our weight room is not a large one. You’re talking about only 12 students in a group in that weight room at one time. We can’t bring in 25 at a time because people would be on top of each other.
“Keeping that in mind, you’re talking about staff working from sunup to sundown to get workouts in.”
Banks said Southern began a professional deep-cleaning of its fieldhouse Tuesday. He said SU is purchasing foggers to sanitize areas, such as the weight room and meeting rooms. Sanitizing mists and wipes also will be used.
Banks said coaches will be asked to host team meetings outside as much as possible and will have to get creative with indoor meetings by allowing a small number of players to meet in person with others joining virtually.
Banks said the number of walk-on players invited to join Jaguar teams will be smaller because of available locker room space.
“We like having players from this area join our teams, particularly the football team as walk-ons,” Banks said. “We like to have up to 30 guys. But with the locker room capacity we have that won’t be possible. Again, we won’t overload anything.”